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What Defines The Premises In A Slip-And-Fall Case?

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When a personal injury attorney files a claim involving a slip-and-fall accident, the main legal theory behind the compensation demand is premises liability. Under the theory of premises liability, a party has a duty to maintain their property in a way that doesn't pose a hazard to the public.

However, the issue can get a bit hairy if there are questions about what defines the premises and why the defendant ought to be liable. This is how a personal injury lawyer will usually approach these concerns.


Outright ownership is the simplest evidence of a party's liability for the premises where a slip-and-fall incident happened. Suppose you suffered a fall in the middle of a store. If the business owns the property outright, then there is close to no question that they're liable for safely maintaining the premises.


Where this issue can get tricky is when you approach the boundaries of the premises. A classic example is ice on a public sidewalk in front of a home or shop. Who is responsible for keeping the ice off of the sidewalk during winter weather?

In most American jurisdictions, local law says the adjacent property owner is liable. This applies even if the owner doesn't own the title to the ground where the sidewalk is. Unless the sidewalk is adjacent to a public building or property, there's a good chance a private citizen will be liable for its poor maintenance and any resulting accidents.

This can become a problem if there is no adjacent property owner. For example, a homeowner might have passed years ago intestate and with no heirs. Who is liable at that point? A lot will depend on the wording of the local laws.

Liability Assignment

Many commercial arrangements, especially rental and lease agreements, assign liability without regard to ownership. For example, a shopping complex might assign premises liability to each shop for the spaces they control. In those instances, premises liability will follow from the agreement.

Notably, there can be some questions at the boundaries of lots. If someone has a slip-and-fall accident where a shop opens up to the main walking areas of a mall, for example, a personal injury lawyer may end up looking at videos to determine where the slip started so they can decide whether the business or the mall's owner ought to be liable.

Why It Matters

Pursuing the right defendant is critical in injury law. If someone can foist liability onto another party, there's always a risk they will. To give a claim the best chances of success, you want to file a claim against the correct defendant. For more information, contact a personal injury lawyer near you.